On the day we were going to hitch-hike from Zagreb to Rovinj (250 km) we left our host’s house without the faintest idea of how to get to the edge of town, which we normally check before. But this time neither HitchWiki nor our host was of much help to us, as both of the sources mentioned suggested asking a city bus driver for the best place to get off in order to hitch-hike, which given our very basic Croatian, seemed like a recipe for disaster. We got to the bus terminal, which was just a badly paved field with a casino and a newsagent’s kiosk, without any ticket or information office whatsoever, which evoked memories of marshrutka stations we frequented in the Caucasus region. We asked some people about the buses which were going towards the road we wanted and after being given some options, we waited patiently for them to arrive. The first driver we spoke to had no problems understanding our broken Croat but told us to wait for a different bus as his vehicle apparently didn’t cover that route. So we sat patiently on the dusty floor waiting half an hour for the next bus driver to tell us exactly the same thing. The third time we were told the bus wasn’t going to the motorway, we weren’t going to give up that easily and got on anyway hoping that the driver will take pity on us and give us some approximate directions.
As we were approaching the motorway, the driver pointed in a rough direction ahead and we got off. To our surprise, we weren’t the only ones who were trying to get to the toll road and at the bus stop we met three other hitch-hikers who looked lost and had no idea where to go. Since we had been given some basic information by the bus driver, we felt pretty confident and led the lost bunch to the perfect spot on the motorway going south. Probably not a good idea, given the fact that the more people trying to get a lift, the smaller the chance we all had of being picked up, but we took pity on them and soon found out that there were even more people already hailing cars at the toll barriers. In total there were maybe seven or eight of us and as we saw them one by one disappearing into people’s cars, our hearts sunk and soon Jon and I were the only ones left, still waiting for a lift in the baking Croatian heat.
It felt like ages but in the end a car stopped and a friendly Croat couple, who spoke good English, gave us a lift to near the city of Karlovac. They dropped us off at a service station and after having a breadroll in the shade, we decided to face the road once again and started walking towards the exit. Usually when we hitch-hike we are standing up, smiling and holding a map ready to negotatiate a lift with a potential driver. This time we were still walking to the exit of the station when Jon stuck his hand out on the off chance that somebody would stop… and somebody did stop.
That somebody was Janko, a young Croatian guy working in his family farm business who on that particular day was going to Rovinj. What are the chances of meeting a driver who would pick you up 220 km away from your destination with the intention of going to exactly where you are going and on top of that turns out to be a genuinely nice, laid-back, guy and exactly our type of person?
On the way to the Istrian coast we stopped in Rijeka to pick up his girlfriend Tihana, who was coming back from a family holiday to spend a couple of days with Janko at their friends’ house in Rovinj.
Once in town, we found a campsite, pitched our tent and went for a swim in the warm Adriatic sea. Then off to town we went to find that Rovinj is a picturesque seaside resort set on a small peninsula jutting out into the water, with narrow winding streets, stone buildings and a soaring belfry visible from all parts of the town.
After tough sightseeing in Italy and hiking in Slovenia, hitting a seaside resort was a nice change and we greatly appreciated lazy times drinking beer, swimming and eating fish.
On the evening of our arrival, Janko and Tihana gave us a call and we met up together with their lovely friends Inez and Marko to face the buzzing nightlife scene of Rovinj.
We spent two excellent days in this lovely chilled-out place, accompanied by good people who we hope to meet again if they decide to visit us in Barcelona. Because hitch-hiking is not only about travelling for free and the unpredicted adventure (which often happens), but also about making long-term friends, I hope…
written by: Ania
Follow our 2 month hitch-hiking trip across the north of Italy and the Balkan Peninsula:‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013′. It’s happening now!
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